Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hotel Transylvania Review: Or, "Why You Should Watch Hotel Translyvania"

Give me a chance here...Let me explain to you why you should watch this film. I normally don't go for this approach, but I think it is needed. (Wow, this turned into a long review, wonder if anyone else wrote this much about Hotel Transylvania...Yeesh)

Reviewing Hotel Transylvania was always going to be significantly harder than reviewing say, the Bond Film Skyfall. The reasons for this are two fold, Numero uno, Hotel Transylvania lacks prestige, this will be self evident by the fact that this review will get significantly less traffic than say the aforementioned Skyfall, and it has to prove it's existence. No-one questions me if I say "I liked Skyfall", for some reason Bond has the natural right to exist, irrespective of bankrupting an entire film company. But Hotel Transylvania doesn't help itself, I've seen it advertised as 'From the studio that brought you...The Smurfs"...Yes, the bloody smurfs. I told my fellow Cynic Simon that I enjoyed this film, and he wasn't sure if I was being sarcastic. Christ, this is going to be an uphill battle

The second reason is that this is a Family Film, or, if you are going to be trite about it, a kids film. But as someone who watches what can either be described as an astounding, or a sad amounts of youth targeted media, even into what has now become my 20s (20 folks, not quite gone yet), I get frankly annoyed at the dismissive nature of people towards these films. I mean, don't get me wrong, some of them are over simplified messes, but every genre has it's bad films. It is when someone does not want to watch something, regardless of the talent going into it. Which is why my first section will regard just that, the talent.

(This is also complicated by a third factor that of course, this is primarily a comedy, and humour, more so than possibly anything else in movies, is divisive and personal. My aim here isn't to tell you why you WILL find it funny, it is why you might, and why, out of all the Halloween Family Films out this season, this one rolled it) ((Yes, even Tim Burton)). (((Apparently action can be divisive as well)))

The Talent: The Director.

Genndy Tartakovsky

If you aren't already aware of him, meet Genndy Borisovich Tartakovsky, if you can't tell from the name, he is Russian, but more importantly still, this man is responsible for Dexter's Laboratory (Amazing) Samurai Jack (Awesome) and 'Star Wars: Clones Wars' (The 2D, excellent show, not to be confused with 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars', the less awesome 3D show). He also was in charge of the first two or so years of the Powerpuff Girls. As you can probably tell by his CV, the man likes 2D animation, and has a consistent track record with pumping out great quality stuff, his name on a 3D animation film was one of the things that first drew me to Hotel Transylvania.

The Talent: The Screenplay Writers

Above: Peter Baynham. Far Above: Robert Smigel
Joining Genndy on the writing team, though I know not to what extent they all took part in this process is Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel. That is, yes, the same Peter Baynham that along with Armando Iannuci and Steve Coogan created the I'm Alan Partridge and all that jazz. Robert Smigel you may know from a plethora of impressions on Saturday Night Live and his famous talking Hound...Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (Pictured above with Smigel). While not everyone will agree that these are both funny men (no-one ever does), they both have appeared on and majorly contributed too award winning shows, and I truly believe that portions of their genius shine through in this.

People have berated the story and the writing in this as some of it's weaker points, and I'll agree so far in the story, but the writing, no way. This is the first family movie I've seen in ages where the characters were genuinely engaging, they felt like they were laughing at stuff that was funny. I mean, yes, there are a couple of kind of, low brow kids humour, but even some of that is turned around for the better. I think that one of the reasons the writing comes off so good is it has a solid core of actors...Which, happens to be a perfect lead on.

The Talent: Actor Time.

Now this time it works the other way around. People seem to love Adam Sandler, but you can firmly count me out of that group, a particularly fun hobby of mine was to bait an Adam Sandler fan I knew with goofy voices and hilarious insights. But, you know what, I like him in this, there is something about 3D, i guess it is because it removed Sandler's face and replaced him with a century's old dark warlord/caring father. I'd gladly and unashamedly say this is his best work, which, obviously coming from me means nothing, but I might be able to use it to piss of Sandler fans.

Twilight...Hotel Transylvania is not

Now Dracula's wife isn't around anymore, so what does he need? Why he needs a set of fairly famously voiced acted buddy monsters,and these guys form a great team in my opinion, their chemistry is natural, and I'm fairly sure they could pull off a 'buddy-film spin off' by themselves, possibly a sub-plot to the already theorized at sequel? I wouldn't complain.

Ok, so all together now. That fat, bad toothed Mummy up there on the left is voiced by Ceelo Green. The...something art behind Fuck you (that is Forget you for any Radio listeners). His presence as token black guy is significantly reduced by the fact we cannot see he is black (in a term I might christen the 'Adam Sandler effect') and obviously he is a mummy, so his jokes revolve around that.

Next in the top left is 'Frank' Frankenstein, played by the questionable actor/comedian Kevin James. I'm really not familiar with much of his work, basically just Barnyard and Hitch. I know he has this weird, cross-sitcom character who appears in some sort of twisted Comic-esque Meta universe. Either way, he certainly doesn't drag this down. Decide on Kevin James yourself.

Frank (Kevin James) looks surprisingly happy at the prospect of spending eternity in Ceelo Green's stomach.

Now we get to the bottom right, you see that pair of glasses floating there? Yeah, well that is David Spade's character, of 8 Simple Rules fame (and apparently Rules of Engagement to everyone else). Being just a voice, Spade probably had a harder time selling it, but his voice just sounds so naturally incredulous that it was an inspired choice.

And last, but only last for reasons of impact, we have Steve...god damn, Buscemi. He fills the role of the lower-middle class father raising way too many hyper-active werewolf children with his wife (played by Molly Shannon, another Saturday Night Live stalwart). I don't think I even need to describe the list of awesome shit Buscemi has done, and while he isn't a comedy actor per say, he definitely garnered large laughs from the adult (parent) population of the cinema screening.

Here is Buscemi's Werewolf called Wayne, if you want, you can assume the Invisible Man (Spade) is there as well. 
So, Dracula and his crew done (interestingly enough, or possibly sadly enough, Sandler, Spade, James and Buscemi all appear in Grown Ups, an actual buddy movie. But I've never seen it and probably never will as it is written by Adam Sandler and know...probably blows)

So, after insulting a grown up comedy, back to defending this film marketed almost exclusively to children...Yeah, it is amazing I even take myself seriously. Oh well, comedy! Lets go, more talent.

So you have probably noticed so far that I'm now a good....While into this review of Hotel Transylvania and I haven't mentioned anyone below the age of *checks the Internet quickly* 38! with Ceelo Green (Christ, did you know David Spade is 48). So where are all the child actors you ask? Well, there aren't any really, the two young people the 'younger audience' are suppose to get are these two love birds.

And love birds isn't a spoiler, they are the only two young characters in it (Save a lot of werewolf cubs)

So this is Jonathan (called Johnnystein when in his costume, above this picture). He is basically Shaggy from Scooby Doo  with the Stoner trait amplified and a love of backpacking around the world. Oh, and he is voiced by the Lonely Island's Andy Samberg. (Also, note the glimpse of a Danish flag on his bag)

So the character of Jonathan should probably be dis-likable, while backpacking around Europe is a particular psuedo-fantasy of mine, those who end up doing it are often pretentious (writing a serious review about a family film...anyone?). However, Jonathan is surprisingly likable for a clueless idiot, he is the perfect foil to Dracula's 'Stay at home mentality' and he has semi-hilarious 'this one time' stories, Samberg delivers some nice charm.

Mavis: 8/10. 

And finally in the character run down we have Dracula's daughter Mavis, voiced by Selina Gomez, now I know virtually nothing about Selina Gomez. I know she gets mentioned on twitter A LOT. With a Bieber-esque fervour about it all, I think she sings? Or maybe she acts, I get her confused with Miley Cyrus, and I can't be bothered to google her, because that would give the false impression I know what the hell I'm talking about. Regardless of her sordid past, a very nice performance here. The Mavis/Jonathan story seems realistic and not contrived, she has genuine reason to find him interesting, I'd say that automatically makes it a better love story than Twilight. (Which is actually very humourously referenced in a picture I will place at the end of this review). 

Closing Section: The Story, Music, Animation and Comedy.

See the thing is, I don't want to over explain Hotel Transylvania and give it a simple 'summary of the entire plot' review. Mostly because I really don't think I can do it justice, but also because that would make this review way too cumbersome. Safe to say, I really enjoyed Hotel Transylvania, maybe the Stars aligned, part of me wants to watch it again to check. The audience (made up of entirely children and their parents...and Me) were laughing away, the adults as well, a couple of single fathers around me found every line Steve Buscemi was hilarious. There are also inevitably jokes for kids, and some of them are quite trite.

The interaction of Dracula and his friends, Dracula and Jonathan, and Jonathan and Mavis are all compelling enough that you never really feel a lull, it is solidly constructed. At it's best when ignoring the story line and focusing on the world (which is very well constructed). The monster lore is also all intact, with many great throw-backs to the old school monster movies. The overlying themes of over-protective parents may seem cliched to a family movie but the idea of Dracula and Mavis being still scared of the Humans after so long is played quite nicely along the Race line a couple of times, in a way that I would've thought risque for a family film, it was hardly ground breaking social commentary, but appreciated.

It may seem like I have nothing but praise but there are a few flaws. The music is fairly generic, the highlight being a play on words rendition of the song 'call me baby' by Carly Rae Jepsen called Call Me Mavy speaks for itself, but even that felt alright in the context of the ending. The Animation is natural and pretty, you can clearly see Genndy Tartakovsky hands all over how the characters look and move, with the graphics (correct word, visuals I suppose?) being very nice, though not up to Pixar standard, but not far off.

In conclusion (to use an essay cliche). I'd watch this again, I want to, I'll probably buy it on DVD just to check out if I'm right in enjoying it as much as I remember doing so. I've heard talks of a Hotel Transylvania 2 being loosely batted around, and I'd support that, hell, I'll even plug that (re-watch pending). Overall I suppose the question is why did I write this, the audience we cater too here at What About Cynics almost definitely was lining around the block waiting for my Hotel Transylvania Review...But, I think it deserves a chance, getting lost in a sea of Halloween Half Term Movies (ParaNorman and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie) of stuff people like me (I was very close to going to watch something else) would naturally dismiss. So this is basically a giant, look twice.  By the time people are reading this, it will probably be out of cinemas, but look out for it, especially if like me, you have a certain spot for cartoons and animation.

Anyway, thanks for listening, here is the promised Twilight Reference from Hotel Transylvania, I laughed, you may not. Peace out.

Twlight Hotel Transylvania
Click to Enlarge.
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Thanks for Reading.


  1. You dont know why you wrote this but im glad you did. Hugely entertaining as always.

    1. Thanks to the both of you, and Anonymous2, I hope you enjoy it. Anonymous1, glad you already did.

  2. You've convinced me, I will endeavour to go and see this.

  3. That’s a nice rating! I have to see this movie. I have seen the first part only. Now days, my kids and I are busy watching shows by Andrew Yeatman on Netflix and as soon as its over we can start with the movies. Also, Halloween is around the corner. It will be fun.

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